It was warm in here, and that in itself provided some welcome comfort. A faint odor of garlic and oil drifted in from the kitchen to the living room where she sat, waiting for Kim to return with drinks. On the coffee table still lay the various magazines and books which had been there last night. This was, Kerry thought, a home well lived-in, and soothing just for that. Strange that she'd been so eager to leave here this morning, and if she'd known what the day ahead would bear ...
She hadn't been able to speak when she'd come in, only managing a single nod through the sobs which threatened to burst forth as Kim had asked softly, "Bad day, huh?"
For a minute, she'd held on tightly to Kim in the hallway, and was pleased when she managed to confine herself to a mostly quiet weeping. As that too subsided, the blonde woman guided her to the sofa, placed a hand on her shoulder for a moment, and headed to the kitchen. But guilt and grief seeped again into Kerry's veins as the day at the hospital came back to her, all too soon driving out even the minor solace she had found just earlier in her surrounds. And so she sat rigidly, denying herself the comfort of the couch.
When Kim reappeared, she took in Kerry's hunched form for a moment, then placed their glasses on the table and sat down close, silently offering her attention. Kerry glanced at her with a small smile before resuming her scrutiny of the carpet, her face tight. When she began to speak, it was in a monotone, punctuated here and there by jagged breaths.
"Dozens of people were injured today - because of a decision I made. There's a man lying at County with burns to 90% of his body, waiting to die. A girl who this morning had a mother is an orphan now. I thought I was doing the right thing - because I followed the rules about reporting safety violations."
There was a slight pause as Kerry's voice broke a little, before she continued in a tone barely above a whisper, "I follow the damn rules, and things still don't work out right."
Kim drew breath to say something, and then, deciding that words would be of scant comfort right now, reached over and draped an arm loosely over Kerry's shoulders. But when she tried to draw the other woman close to her, the stiffness in Kerry only increased and she seemed to shrug away from her would-be comforter a little; for the second time that day, Kim remembered with sudden pain. She looked down and let her arm fall partly onto the back of the sofa. Taking a deep breath, she asked in a voice that sounded unexpectedly calm to herself, "Kerry - are you also concerned that *we're* not working out right?"
Almost immediately, Kerry turned towards Kim, her surprise evident. She placed a hand awkwardly on Kim's knee and shook her head as she struggled with her response.
"It feels - it feels good to be with you. You're kind and caring, and so- so generous. But I think that maybe things are too - uneven between us. I'm worried that - that you're not getting what you deserve."
'And that you don't deserve what you're getting,' thought Kim. She cocked her head slightly, leaned forward, and asked gently,
"Does this have to do with last night?"
A myriad of expressions crossed Kerry's face as her eyes could not decide where to look. She tapped her fingers together and drew agitated patterns through the air with her hands. After a short nervous laugh, she finally met Kim's patient gaze again.
"You spent almost the whole time - taking care of *me*. And I let you! I hardly-"
"No, no." Kim cut Kerry off there, shaking her head vigorously, her face marked by both a frown and a smile as she sought to counter the argument before it was made.
"Kerry, it made me happy that you let me make love to you. For that long. I didn't feel unsatisfied."
"But I- I didn't reciprocate in kind."
"As many times," Kim corrected gently with humor. When Kerry failed to smile, she added more seriously, "Anyway, these things often have a way of evening themselves out."
Kim nodded firmly a few times as she answered. Clearly this was important to Kerry.
"In my experience. Between women."
Kerry considered that for a minute, and then offered with as broad a smile as she had given all night, "You know it's not because I don't like you. Your- your body, I mean."
She was glad when the object of her affections lit up so transparently at that, but when a blatantly sensual look emerged on Kim's face, Kerry felt a sudden burst of shyness and darted her eyes away. Apparently sensing her discomfort, Kim's demeanor changed again, and her voice was nothing but soothing when she said, "Bodies are good for all sorts of pleasures. For example-" Kim brought her legs onto the couch and leaned against one of the armrests. There was no resistance this time when she pulled the other woman down until Kerry was lying against her, her head upon Kim's chest. "-I get a great deal of pleasure holding you."
The blonde woman began stroking her companion's hair and face softly as she added, "Or touching you, just for comfort."
They lay like that for a while without speaking as this exquisite caressing was given and accepted. Kerry was not aware of when the touches had become slower and firmer, or when they had started to reach down to her neck. She only realized at some point that her respiration rate was increasing, and she was sure Kim must have noticed by now too. Her voice was a little husky when she finally noted out loud,
"This feels ... more than comforting."
Kim raised her eyebrows suggestively, and asked in liquid tones, "Would you like to do something about it?"
For a moment, there seemed to be no better idea to Kerry than losing herself in heated embrace with Kim, to share again the intimacies and pleasures of the night before. But the weight of the day's events had not quite lifted enough, and after a short silence, she said softly with a hint of apology, "Maybe not tonight."
"OK." Kim's tone was sincere, light, and without any note of reproach, and she began a soft massage of Kerry's temples instead as part of her reply.
Touched by a warmth and safety that she had not experienced for far too long, Kerry continued with less diffidence, "But I would like to stay the night, if that's OK."
The delight in Kim's voice was almost palpable as she laughed.
"Of course. What color shirt would you like to wear tomorrow?"
* * * * *
As they spent the remainder of the evening sharing their experiences of the day, Kerry learnt that Kim had had a rather entertaining time at Psych.; or rather, it had no doubt been more than a little frustrating struggling with the bureaucracy, but Kim managed to put enough of an amusing spin on things to get some laughs out of her audience. It was good, Kerry thought, to get another perspective on how doctors handled their trials with incompetent, ignorant administrators; Kim certainly had a less ulcer-inducing attitude than *she* usually did. When she finally brought herself to tell Kim more details about the workers and the fire, the other woman said nothing until Kerry ended by summing up the likely fate of the orphaned girl. After a moment, Kim offered quietly,
"You're a good doctor, Kerry. You care about your patients. And you couldn't have known what would happen. It wasn't your fault."
Such a simple assessment, and one that Kerry knew deep down was true; but it was different to have someone else say it to her. She hadn't realized how much she needed it after a day where the entire ER staff had been required to deal with the burn victims, when blatant accusation had shot from every look Luka had given her.
She wondered if Kim knew how much the gift of her friendship meant, and then, with uncharacteristic emotion, Kerry whispered, "You're right," and drew her companion close for a kiss. The happiness she saw in Kim's eyes after this single gesture of affection sent a pang of joy through her so poignant it was almost painful.
'I think I love her,' the thought crossed her mind, bringing with it both fear and wonder.
Whatever passed over her face engaged Kim's curiosity, who asked with a smile, "What?"
Kerry returned the smile and shrugged lightly. The other woman scanned her face for a moment, and noted, "You're tired."
Actually, that was true.
"So are you," Kerry replied softly.
Kim gave a short laugh, and moved her legs. "Yeah. We'd better get to bed - morning shifts tomorrow for both of us."
As her host used the bathroom, Kerry changed into a t-shirt in the bedroom and eagerly crawled under the covers; the simple physical comfort of the bed was delicious after the long day. Still, when Kim returned, Kerry propped herself up a little and watched as she undressed and took a pair of pyjamas from a drawer. Noticing that she was under scrutiny, Kim paused, regarded her admirer with warm eyes, and lifted an eyebrow in half-enquiry. A desire for even closer examination rose up in Kerry then, and she asked with a touch of a grin,
"Could you uh - not put that on?"
The other woman gave her a measured look that reminded Kerry of her own clad state. "Won't I be at a disadvantage?"
"Do you mind?"
Kim laughed, looked down for a moment, and put the pyjamas back in the dresser. Recapturing Kerry's gaze, she moved with such deliberate slowness to the bed that Kerry found herself sitting up and reaching an arm over in impatient entreaty. And then all of a sudden it seemed as if there was nothing but Kim before her when the blonde woman finally made her way onto the sheets, and lay languidly on one elbow with a smile on her face.
Last night Kerry had felt a sense of urgency, a need to prove that she could fulfil Kim the way that she had been fulfilled. But right now, all she wanted to do was to explore the woman before her, to map every line and curve, and find what had been missed in the rush last time. And so after she had moved over and gently straddled Kim, she began by simply running her fingers lightly over Kim's face and neck, and kissing her softly; knowing with a deep gladness that there would be so much more to discover this night, and all those to follow.
* * * * *
The ER was a flurry of activity as usual at the beginning of a day shift, and Kerry headed straight for the board. Kim had insisted on dropping her off first before going to park the car, since they'd been running late all morning. Of course, they had only themselves to blame, Kerry thought to herself with secret delight. Dear god, two nights in a row ... and even the self-proclaimed morning animal Kim had struggled to rise and shine today. The fact that they both needed showers did not of course help their schedules, although Kerry was far less leisurely this morning under the nozzle than she'd been yesterday. It was much more enjoyable, she decided, to recreate her intimacies with Kim, *with* Kim, rather than simply in her own head.
As Kerry consciously cleared her mind in preparation for the work day ahead, she became aware that an animated discussion was going on around the Admit window, with Dave Malucci's voice the most constant amidst several. She sighed and approached the group with intent to disperse them; their shifts were just starting, for godsakes.
"Alright, what's going on here?"
Abby Lockhart looked over and said drily, "Dr. Malucci is just giving us his 'system' on how to tell if a woman's a lesbian."
Her face and voice revealing nothing, Kerry addressed Malucci blandly, "And this is relevant to our work here how?"
The inevitably cocky resident was confident and smooth as he replied immediately, "Well, Dr. Weaver, different people may have different health needs depending on their sexual practices, so-"
From behind him, Haleh snorted.
"Oh yeah, an' this has *nothing* to do with that cute asthmatic in Exam 2 that you were hitting on until her girlfriend showed up with a bike helmet, right Doc?"
Dave swirled around, and was clearly about the dispute that, but Kerry cut him short.
"Malucci, on behalf of all the women who have every right to be offended, I'm telling you that I don't want to hear anything more about this 'system' of yours, you got that?"
Malucci knew enough to attempt a little contrition, even if it wasn't particularly sincere.
"Sorry, Dr. Weaver. But it's not like I was talking about anyone *here*." He clarified his point by indicating the people around him with a sweep of his arm - presumably the desk staff and a few nurses milling about Admit.
Almost before she realized, she had retorted mildly, "Are you sure, Dave?"
The grin on Malucci's face grew a little smaller as he frowned in mock consideration. "Ok, so maybe my system has a few flaws in it, and I missed the asthmatic."
Still, Malucci wasn't stupid. The others were returning to their tasks under Weaver's steely gaze, and her look to him now made it clear that this discussion had better be over, effective immediately.
"I'll get to work, Chief."
"You do that."
She didn't realize that Kim was behind her until she heard her say softly, "He didn't get it."
She turned around, gave Kim a brief smile, and agreed conversationally as she accepted some files from Randi with a nod. "I guess he didn't."
Kim looked at Kerry closely for a moment, and then observed quietly, with sadness only partly concealed, "You're relieved."
A wave of pain washed over Kerry as she read Kim's face, and the denial that she couldn't give tied Kerry's tongue as she simultaneously quashed the unwarranted anger she felt towards Kim for an instant. Flustered, she finally offered in a low voice,
"It doesn't mean that I don't-"
That had come out too coldly, Kim thought, and the conciliatory words "It's OK" battered about in her head, but she found herself unable to let them out of her mouth. As she remembered the endearments shared only this morning in her bed, one silent thought dominated her mind as she dropped her gaze and turned away.
'I know you love me, Kerry. But no one else does.'
Temporarily non-plussed by Kim's withdrawal, Kerry inclined her head towards the desk, and saw Dave Malucci regarding her from the other side of Admit with poorly disguised curiosity, although he looked away as soon as their eyes met, and hurried off to an exam room. When she glanced back down the hallway, the other woman was gone. Locked still in indecision, she was momentarily seized by an urge to go after Kim. But quickly she tightened her mouth and suppressed it; dammit, she was at work, and had admin to deal with, assignments to give out, patients to see. This - this would just have to wait.